Advertisement

White House dodges question about whether Trump talked to Icahn before tariff announcement

A textbook example of how to say a lot of words without answering the question.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01:  White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducts a news briefing at the White House March 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders conducts a news briefing at the White House March 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (CREDIT: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders dodged a question about whether President Trump spoke with billionaire investor Carl Icahn prior to announcing last week his intention to impose hefty tariffs on steel.

Trump and Icahn’s communications have been at issue after ThinkProgress reported last week that Icahn dumped more than $30 million in steel-related stock days before the announcement. A leading expert in insider trading, Duke Law professor James D. Cox, told ThinkProgress the timing of the sale was “awfully suspicious” and “unquestionably” warranted a federal investigation.

A key question in any such inquiry is whether Icahn was in touch with Trump or others in the White House and learned material inside information about potential steel tariffs.

Fox Business’ Blake Burman asked Sanders if she “could tell us the last time the president has spoken to Mr. Icahn and whether or not he told Mr. Icahn of what he was planning to do.”

Sanders dodged Burman’s question.

“I’m not aware of any of their — of a recent conversation between the two of them. So I’d have to verify and get back to you. But I’m not aware of any conversations,” Sanders replied.

Advertisement

Of course, Sanders saying she is not aware of any conversations is very different than saying that no conversations occurred.

ThinkProgress and more than a dozen other media outlets have inquired in the last several days about recent conversations between Trump and Icahn. The White House has not provided any response. In a statement to NPR, a White House spokesperson suggested that, even if Trump and Icahn talked about the sanctions, it would not be inside information since Trump has discussed the possibility of tariffs in the summer of 2017.

Cox, however, said this is an incorrect interpretation of insider trading law.

“It’s been in the atmosphere, but if there was a conversation or a bit of information that made the uncertainty less uncertain,” Cox told ThinkProgress, “[W]hat’s important here, is did [Icahn] have privileged information that allowed him to better evaluate the likelihood that Trump would actually do something.”

So far, the White House is not saying.